Thursday, 19 August 2010

Castle Ridge, Ben Nevis

Britain's mightiest mountain face.

Castle Ridge, Ben Nevis

Of the four great ridges of Ben Nevis (five including Carn Dearg Buttress), Castle Ridge is arguably the most overlooked.

There's no doubt that it lacks the aesthetic curve of Tower Ridge, or the sheer awesome grandeur of the North East Buttress, but it's a cracking ridge none the less. I'd only climbed it in winter before today, with Alex leading me up my second winter climb (at a respectable grade III,4).

A cloud inversion over Loch Long

"April showers" is the best way to describe the weather…one moment bright sunshine, the next heavy rain. To the North, it looked much clearer, a small cloud inversion hanging over Loch Long.

The ridge gains interest and increases in difficulty the higher you get, as any good route should. The crux of the route is a series of chimneys heading vertically up the tower at the top, which with damp rock were surprisingly tricky for the grade! In my opinion the crux easily matches the cruxes of Tower Ridge for difficulty, minus the extreme exposure of Tower Gap.

Looking up at the crux chimneys

Castle Ridge only suffers from its position on the mountain, in that it isn't situated in the middle of the great arena of the North face, as Tower Ridge is. None the less, it is arguably as enjoyable in summer as in winter, and one of the best summer ridge climbs I've done.

Looking down the crux pitch.

On my way to the summit, I caught sight of the large snow patch in Observatory Gully. Fingers crossed it remains until the first snows of the autumn - hopefully a small number of weeks away!

A small patch of snow in Observatory Gully

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